At this point, I am halfway through the mini-marathon that is NaNoWriMo. According to my statistics if I keep up this pace I may even be able to hit the 50K word count ahead of schedule. I’m not overly optimistic. But, this is a good moment to do some self-reflection and see what I’ve learned so far.
As I emphasized previously, NaNoWriMo is as much about learning to make time in your life for writing as it is about anything else. The words on the “page” are simply a rough draft, a launching pad from which your completed and perfected novel will spring. You’ve told the story to yourself, the next phase (should you decide to pursue it) is to get it ready to be told to the world.
For me, this is the hardest part. I am always striving to write “clean copy”. It’s a holdover habit from my work in print news and as a communications director. I want everything I write to be as close to perfect as possible, and so I am often pulling out my own hair when I write a scene and know in my heart that it will require a complete rewrite.
However, in order to complete this challenge, I must resist the urge. To help me along the way I have employed the use of an app that is free to use for ALL NaNoWriMo participants for the month of November called Dabble. Dabble is like Scrivner Lite, with tools to help you build your world, organize your scenes, develop your characters, take notes and keep track of your word count. It automatically saves to your cloud account so that you can download the app on your phone and write on the go or log in to the website from any computer. Best of all, since it links with your NaNoWriMo account, your word count is AUTOMATICALLY updated as you write.
But for me, the best part about Dabble is that it doesn’t have an autocorrect system. Your rough draft appears on the page without the red or blue lines that appear instantly in other writing programs. It’s possible to write thousands of words without being aware of any of the spelling or grammar mistakes you are making. The “clean” page helps me resist the urge to turn back and fix my mistakes WHILE I AM WRITING.
The other thing that I have had to do is make peace with my mistakes. I wrote 15K words in the third person before I admitted to myself that I really needed to switch to the first person. I wrote another 5K word before I realized that I hadn’t done a good job making my female protagonist likable. Did I go back?
And trust me, I’m DYING to go back and fix those HUGE glaring mistakes. But, if I do that, at this rate I’ll never finish the story, and that’s what the November 31 deadline is for. Its there to push you to race to the end. It doesn’t matter if it’s crap or not. It doesn’t matter that you will essentially have to rewrite the entire thing several times before it’ll be worth publishing. Just this once, finish it on time. Push all the way to the end and THEN go back and rebuild.
So, my pro tip is that, if for some reason you are like me and can’t make it to the end of a sentence without checking your spelling and grammar, find a way to fight the urge.
Some writers are drafting in longhand in a plain old notebook or journal. Others are using typewriters. Turn off the auto-correct on your word processor. Use Scrivner or Dabble or any writing tool that helps you stay focused on the writing and not on the proofing and editing. Save that part for the end. And don’t be afraid to make major changes if you discover you need to. There will be plenty of time to go back and fix the inconsistencies later. Write like nobody’s watching, and above all, enjoy the process.